On 31 May and 1 June the annual China–EU Youth Policy Dialogue and Expert Seminar on Youth Issues took place. As member of EFIL’s European Pool of Representatives, Massimiliano Verri (AFS Italy) joined a delegation of 14 European activists who met on the shores of Lake Suzhou to discuss on youth engagement issues with as many representatives of Chinese organisations involved in youth work.
The overarching theme of this year’s seminar revolved around reaching out to young people and getting them engaged, with the first workshop focussing on the organisational means and tools available to address this goal, and the second on content and products the youth could benefit from. The seminar was organised in the form of panel discussions between one Chinese and one EU representative on every theme, with each participant being asked to prepare a 10-minute presentation on an assigned topic. Themes of the first workshop included capacity building and organisational reforms of youth organisations, new media as a tool to reach young people, roles of non-formal and informal education, and training and qualification of youth workers. The second workshop had participants exchange perspectives on values education and guidance for young people, youth organisations as providers of public and social services, and on inclusion of vulnerable youth groups. Both workshops ended with sharing of best practices and case studies by a EU and a Chinese representative.
Many commonalities and differences emerged when Chinese and EU approaches were compared: engaging the youth is clearly a priority for the EU and China, where people between 14 and 25 years old represent 22% of the population. Among active youth workers in China are the 72,000 employees of the All China Youth Federation (ACYF), which is a Chinese federative body of youth organisations aiming to represent and protect the legitimate rights and interests of young people and promote youth participation and development. The most distinct difference is probably on the importance placed to values while working with youth: while in both the EU and China youth organisation generally promote social inclusion and active citizenship, the role of youth organisations as a vehicle to transmit common values is crucial in China, where such organisations are used as a means to promote the government message and its political project.
Besides the formal discussions, this seminar was also an excellent occasion to exchange informally with other youth workers with diverse backgrounds and experience while discovering Shanghai.
by Massimiliano Verri – EPOR member (AFS Italy)
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